ABBA VOYAGE – are avatars the future of concerts?

An arena built specifically for a next-level hologram show, years of planning, innovation, investments – to bring back what we all thought would be impossible… ABBA. Yes, I just HAD to go see it. If for no other reason, then for the sake of giving something new a fair chance.

I’ve just returned to my hotel after having experienced ABBA – The Voyage and the much talked about ABBA-tars. I’m left with two main impressions:
1. It’s an absolutely mind-blowing, amazing light/laser show and the holograms look so real when you see them a few feet away (I was on the floor in front of the stage). Someone could have told me that they were real and I might have been fooled to believe it. That is, until they appeared on the huge screens. That revealed the digital illusion because no matter how advanced the technology is, you can still tell when it’s a real person moving and when it’s a digital image. The digital images are way too smooth, which gives it away.

The sound is absolute perfection, the lights are amazing, and the avatars are a bit spooky because again – from the right angle your brain is trying to process what it’s actually watching. And there is a live band and singers on stage as well, but you almost forget about them because of all the grandiose other stuff that’s going on.

That being said… This brings me to my second main impression:
This is NOT a concert. It’s more like watching a movie. There is no actual INTERACTION. The magic of a real concert can never be replicated in any other form.

You can watch a show on YouTube or DVD, you can watch a streaming version of a gig, you can bring out avatars, holograms, whatever… but the ONE magic ingredient in a real, face-to-face concert, is INTERACTION. It’s when energy is being exchanged between artists and the crowd – and then ping-ponged back and forth for however long the concert lasts.

I’m talking about eye contact, smiles, winks, the element of surprise, the adoration from the crowd, the fuel that feeds any artist to want to do more, the “receipt” if you will, that he or she is doing something that means something to the fans. Or the fans who feel special if their object of adoration looks at, or in some way acknowledges them.

You simply can’t get that with holograms. There is no interaction whatsoever, it’s a one-sided communication and at times I felt weird applauding the performance because… who was it for? The abbatars can’t see it or hear it, so what is the point of clapping in that context?

Also… The digitalisation has created perfection that takes away from the original imperfections that we know and love. It’s been explained that all 4 members of ABBA created these moves in real life. Well if Frida is THAT agile at 76 years of age, that she can do those high kicks and bent knees-dancing, I’d rather see HER do that in person than the avatar. :D

Agnetha and Frida always had their own dancing style – that slightly awkward, uncoordinated and spontaneous dance, I mean, it was the seventies, and the visual wasn’t as important as it is now.

They would dance together but usually two different dances to fit whatever each of them felt like doing. NOW, they are two Lara Crofts with perfect bodies, perfect futuristic costumes, and wig-like hair that’s way too perfect – dancing like a mix between yoga queens and dancers…

Personally, that takes away their personalities and what made them unique, the reason why some loved the shy, mysterious Agnetha and some preferred the wild and extrovert Frida.

Another thing that felt strange is that Bjorn and Benny both had their instruments, whereas Frida and Agnetha didn’t have microphones in many of the numbers they performed. Just a silly detail, but it should be there to make it more “real”.

Intellectually I’d say that it was a fantastic show in every aspect if you look at it as an interactive performance rather than a concert. They can’t see you, they can’t look into your eyes and feel your energy, they are an illusion and they are not there – obviously.

I’m glad that I saw it, I was open to a new take on concerts and I understand the idea, or at least my interpretation of it.

Some say that they would rather see the real ABBA, but if we’re being honest, we live in a society that’s very shallow where we expect youth, beauty, and perfection. We want to see and hear ABBA the way they looked and sounded in their prime. If they had gone out as themselves there would have been whining about the imperfect voices live or something else.

I know, because in the past few months I’ve gone to Whitesnake’s Farewell tour gigs and a handful of Paul McCartney shows. Fans are complaining on Facebook, disappointed that their heroes can’t do what they used to do, vocally. There is no understanding at all for the voice as an instrument and how it’s affected by time and age. So, this was the right approach for ABBA and it’s a very bold step which I admire.

Will I want to see another hologram show in the future? Probably not. For me, it has to include the magic ingredient, the “Tinker Bell fairy dust” that is the energy between those on stage and those in the crowd. If they can make me believe that you can fake that too, I might reconsider, but for now – go see it for the sake of getting a new perspective on things – and after all, it’s quite a cool show, as long as you’re clear on what it’s all about. :)

She’s always been there to rock

Back in 1988, when I started out as a young rock reporter, writing about hard rock for one of the main evening papers in Sweden, I didn’t know any other girls that shared the same passion. That was to happen later, but up until then, I was “one of the boys”. It was just the normal state of things.

During that time, the era before Internet and e-mails, I used to receive letters from my readers. There was always a big envelope in the editorial office, containing letters, or sometimes, such as when I dared to write something unflattering about Paul Stanley, a big sack full of angry letters. :)
Some of the letter writers stood out because they revealed a genuine curiosity, passion and interest in music, and they would write to comment on articles, suggest bands that should get more attention in the paper or simply to ask for more information on artists whose work they admired. One of those writers was a girl named Ozzie.

She was mainly very passionate about guitar virtuosos, her letters would often mention the likes of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani or Yngwie Malmsteen for instance. I thought it was incredibly cool with a girl who was genuinely into rock for the same reasons as myself.

I don’t remember exactly how we met up, but we started going to concerts. We went to see Skid Row on their tours of Sweden, keeping the costs to a minimum. At one point, another girl who was also going to those gigs, booked a cheap room for one person at the fancy Park Avenue Hotel (it led to Skid Row!) but then a whole bunch of fans, including me and Ozzie, crammed ourselves into that room to get a few hours of sleep. Somebody was in the bed, someone slept in a chair, some on the floor – there were people everywhere.
Another time I remember sleeping on a kitchen table at some girl’s place on one of those Skids-tours. We were young, we didn’t care much about convenience, it was ALL about the concert experience!

In 1992, Ozzie and I went to England for the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington. That was quite an experience. I remember having interviews scheduled left and right and at one point I was double-booked and was supposed to be at two different places at the same time. Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P was on the interview list in one city while Skid Row were holding a press conference in Nottingham I believe it was, at the same time.

So Ozzie stepped in and did the interview with Blackie. She saved my a** and did a great job.

It was also Ozzie that taught me how to create a web page in the early ’90s when the internet was new and still wasn’t in everyone’s homes. It required html-knowledge and she showed me the basics. She was a bit of a pioneer with that, cause she caught on early on those things. I created my first web page thanks to her tips and tricks and it became a very well visited page in the early days of Internet.

Fast forward to 2021. When life gets in the way, friends also go their separate ways sometimes and we have been busy with our respective lives the past few years but when I read that she had now finished and published her first book, I felt really moved, happy and proud.
The band is lucky to have her do this, because I don’t know anyone who is as thorough as Ozzie, or as passionate and disciplined about something when her heart is all in.

We Came To Rock – The Official Pretty Maids Journals by Ozzie Adenborg is out now. She’s followed the band for a long time. We used to go to their shows back in the day, and then obviously she’s seen many more on her own but it’s such an amazing accomplishment, I can’t wait to read this cover to cover!

She had a book signing today, at a very cool record store in the south of Sweden called Gantofta Skivbörs.
It was great to see her and her “baby”.

The book is in a landscape format rather than the traditional standing format. “I hate it when there’s a great photo in a book and it’s spread over two pages, because it just looks weird. I wanted the entire photo to fit on one page like it’s supposed to be viewed. And most live photos are landscape format so this seemed like the best option“.
See? Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before? It IS annoying with a photo that’s 50/50 on a spread instead of in full on just one page.

It looks fantastic, a great deal of work has been put into this and the result is magnificent!
It’s inspiring to see this and she deserves full attention for this book. I got a copy today and will enjoy reading it now when the dark fall is here. Perfect book-weather!

If you want your own copy, this is where you can get your hands on it: https://www.prettymaidsjournals.se/


My own pass from the show pictured in the book above.

We just got our lives back

I’ve been watching the live stream of Global Citizen all evening, coming from London, New York and Paris. Last year, this event consisted of artists who had submitted “from home”-videos, recorded from their back yard, living room or wherever. But there was no actual live event because of the pandemic.

I admired how people find solutions to everything – I thought it was sad in many ways that it had to be that way but the show had to go on.

When I turned it on today, I was met by something I had almost forgotten: CROWDS. Smiling people, singing people, people waving their hands in the air – just people as far as the eye can see. And artists on stage. It feels like the last time I experienced that was in another time and place, like it was a dream.

To be honest, it moved me, I cried a little. We’re through this shit. We are BACK TO NORMAL. It’s such an emotional thing to watch – and when Camila Cabello said, from the NYC stage, that it’s been so long since we’ve been able to gather like this, and that it’s scary for an artist to get on a stage in front of that many people – after so long – I got it.
A concert isn’t happening if it doesn’t consist of the the two most important elements: Artists and their audience.

Many tried streaming concerts in 2020. It just wasn’t the same. There was no exchange of energy, and that’s the whole point with live shows. You can’t recreate them – they must happen face-to-face.

I’m a bit nervous as well. I feel like I may have lost my ability to plan my concert-travels and most of all, I still can’t relax enough to enjoy the process, because there have been so many bumps in the road the past year and a half, that I’m almost afraid of getting too excited about anything.

“What if they close the borders again? What if new rules are made up? What if the show gets canceled? What if?”

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve felt like a zombie living in a bubble since February 2020. I have existed, but I haven’t LIVED. My whole life is about music. When the pandemic hit, I stopped living.
I didn’t take out any vacation, because… what am I supposed to do with my free time if there is no gig to travel to??

So, to see this now is… huge. Amazing. Fantastic. Unbelievable.

UK announced more simple entry rules for entry from October 4th. The US is finally opening in November. The EU has pretty much been open for months already. Denmark announced the pandemic officially over and has scrapped all Covid-19 rules. Life if back to normal. Norway did the same. Sweden is letting go of most Covid-19 restrictions, and concerts are now allowed again.

I don’t know, it’s like my brain has adjusted to this vacuum after more than a year of sitting at home staring at the wall, this “you can’t go anywhere or do anything” that I’ve told myself that maybe this is how it’s going to be from now on.

But seeing THIS today, made me smile and cry at the same time! F**k this virus and all the misery it brought.

And thank you to all the scientists and doctors who worked tirelessly to get us out of this mess, I credit this to them.

ROCK’N’ROLL IS BACK!! <3

ABBA…!

I haven’t blogged in a while, probably because there hasn’t been much to write about in this current Covid-vacuum that we’re living in.
But right now, it’s a few minutes past midnight here in Sweden, and I felt moved and inspired for the first time in ages.

ABBA announced their comeback a few hours ago, released two new songs and videos, presented the new arena that they’re building in London specifically for their avatar-show and just spoke about life and what they’re planning to do next.

To be honest, I didn’t believe that there would be an actual reunion. I thought it would be something much less sensational than what was advertised beforehand, but that they wanted to get everyone’s attention with the ABBA-name.

Frankly, even if they would announce a reunion, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it. Frida and Agnetha had two of the most amazing voices in the music business back in their prime. They were second to none. At their age, now, it could get embarrassing I thought. I was an idiot.

When I heard the first few lines of “I still have faith in you“, I thought it was very ABBA-esque and something from another era. But then, much to my surprise, I found myself crying. It freakin’ got me.

This is something that the world needs desperately right now. HOPE. Positivity. Love. Faith in the future. Beauty.
Modest and pompous at the same time, tasteful naivety to replace the cold and harsh cynicism we’ve grown accustomed to in social media and in politics the past few years.

ABBA brought me back to the magic of music, what it can do. Music UNITES. And it’s like they’ve been sent by higher, divine forces right in the nick of time.

And the fact that Bjorn and Benny still have that boyish attitude that anything is possible, is so inspiring.

Let’s just do it. Whatever it is. Oh, you need a special arena to be able to do these hologram shows, and there isn’t one that ticks all the boxes? Well, then let’s BUILD OUR OWN darn arena! Problem solved.

I love people who kick in doors, who think outside the box and go “how do we do this” instead of “we won’t be able to do this“.

Many memories from my childhood came back. At school dances, Abba was a given. We all danced to “Dancing Queen“.
When we drove through Europe to get to Croatia back in those days, I remember I was asked to pick out the music to play in the car. I picked “Voulez-Vous” and it played a zillion times on the way down to Split. Yet, I still love that album.

The first Christmas gift I bought for my own money was Abba’s “The Album“. I bought it for dad cause he was a big fan, but most of all I bought it because I wanted it myself. Two-in-one solution, why not.

It just feels grand. Huge. Somewhere in the stratosphere. Some people breathe music like nobody else. Abba are timeless with their unbelievable melodies.

Sure enough, it’s stuck in my head now too. It’s such a welcome break from all the darkness around us, we just need their light. Lots of it.

Welcome back, Abba!

Are we forced to steal music now?

What happened to buying music? When Google Play Music closed down, the possibility to buy and download a digital album disappeared. I loved going there buying all sorts of things. One day it would be some old eighties-one-hit-wonder like Falco and another day it would be Paul McCartney or hair-bands like Shotgun Messiah or whatever. Anything would be available for easy purchase. PayPal-bam! And bam! Within seconds it was yours forever.

I live in Sweden and I’ve realized only a few weeks ago, that if I want a new album I only have two choices if I actually want to OWN the album (not RENT it, which streaming is).

I can either go back in time and start buying CDs again (I thought we had left those behind in favor of mp3s, you know, non-physical music?) or collectors colored vinyls that I will never listen to because…well, they are COLLECTOR’s items that people usually buy because they want to brag about having them, or because they figure they might be worth something on eBay someday. And some just because it’s an addiction.

It’s even cool to buy a CASSETTE nowadays. But you can’t find a digital album for SALE anywhere unless you live in the States, apparently.

The second option is, frankly, stealing? Right? How else do you get an album that you can download and listen to anywhere, even when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection?

It’s the second time I’m wasting my time trying to buy a downloadable album. Artists are complaining about not being paid by Spotify, yet that seems to be the only option for people to listen to their music these days? They don’t make it available to buy anymore.

When AC/DC released their latest album, I wasn’t even aware of the problem. I was sitting here one night and felt like buying the album – and listening to it right away.

Three hours later, I had browsed and Googled and tried everything to find a way to buy the damn record but to no use. It simply wasn’t available to someone who lived in my part of the world.

I tried four different Amazon sites, US, UK, Germany and Sweden. You get it “for free” (yeah, right…) with your SUBSCRIPTION which in other words means that you are renting it.

You are paying for the “privilege” of listening to it on THEIR platform, THEIR way, on THEIR terms.
And should you one day not be able to dish out that dough monthly, well – there goes the music too.

You’ve basically been paying to listen to the same album every damn month – and evenso – how long would I have to listen to that album on Amazon or Spotify before the artists actually get paid what they would have gotten if I had bought their album?

And another thing. I can’t STAND sites that think I don’t know what I like and therefore must “suggest” music that they figure I might like. One day they think I’m into Kanye or some other rap/RnB artist I’ve never heard of, or something they think is hard rock because hey – there’s a GUITAR in there? Once one of those sites suggested I should check out Kansas – because I had listened to George Harrison?!?

I’m allergic to Spotify, I’m not into paying someone else to make the rules to how I want to experience, select, and listen to my music. In other words – take your streaming sites and, pardon my French, shove it where the sun don’t shine.

I ended up getting that AC/DC album, but it may or may not have been legal, I wouldn’t know. At the end of the day, I wasn’t given the legal option I was looking for – for three sweaty, frustrating hours.

A few months ago, Paul McCartney announced the release of his new upcoming album, “McCartney III“. I bought the digital version of it right away, because the last time he released an album – “Egypt Station” – I did get it as a digital album.

Well, fellow McCartney-fans in social media started posting their pink, blue, white, yellow collector’s vinyls, the cover, the CDs… but no digital album. I had expected it to be the fastest option. I wrote to the store asking where it was.
It will probably take forever before anyone answers – thanks to Corona and Christmas. However, I noticed something when I went to his official store that I hadn’t seen when I ordered it – “US only“.

I ditched CD’s a long time ago – I thought we were over that format now. You can barely even find a decent CD-player anymore, or are we doing Walkmans too now? What’s going on?
Thank god I kept the CD-player in the car at least (I listened to my music through an FM-transmitter connected to my cellphone though….).

I’m sure it has something to do with all these ridiculous laws that have been driving us crazy the past few years. You can’t even enter a website anymore without selecting your level of “privacy” and “experience”…

I just totally missed the part that says “Thou shalt not buy music unless it’s on old formats or rented”.

Enlighten me please. What’s the deal?